John Brockman, the leading literary
agent for science writers, runs an interesting website
to promote his clients called
Edge.org. Each year, he asks a question and posts
over 100 responses from prominent researchers and
history of science is replete with discoveries that were
considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous
in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions
are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An
idea you think about (not necessarily one you
originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed
to be false, but because it might be true?"
Summers, the Harvard president and
former Treasury Secretary, had helped recruit Pinker
away from MIT in 2003 so that he could move from
studying the evolution of language to all of human
nature, in the tradition of Harvard`s grand old man of
the life sciences,
Edward O. Wilson.
Later, not surprisingly, Pinker
emerged as the
leading defender of Summers after the Harvard
President got into
$50 million worth of
daring to suggest that discrimination isn`t the only
reason men dominate the science, engineering, and
mathematics faculty at Harvard.
So, here is
Pinker`s answer to his own question:
Very few tenured Harvard professors have the courage
to bring up such politically incorrect questions.
Perhaps Pinker read in a 2004
article what one of his most distinguished
predecessors in the Harvard Psychology department, the
late Richard Herrnstein (co-author of The Bell Curve),
said upon being granted tenure at Harvard. According
to Charles Murray`s
Dick, being a tenured professor at Harvard was not just
the perfect job, but the perfect way to live his life.
too good to be true; there had to be a catch. What`s my
part of the bargain? he had asked himself.
figured it out,` he said, looking at me with that
benign, gentle half-smile of his. `You have to tell the
Pinker cites four examples from
2005, each of which we`ve devoted one or more articles
to here at VDARE.com:
- "In January, Harvard
Larry Summers caused a firestorm when he cited
research showing that women and
men have non-identical statistical distributions
of cognitive abilities and life priorities.
- "In March, developmental
Armand Leroi published an op-ed in the New
York Times rebutting the conventional wisdom
that race does not exist. (The conventional wisdom
is coming to be known as
Lewontin`s Fallacy: that because most genes may
be found in all human groups, the groups don`t
differ at all. But patterns of correlation
among genes do differ between groups, and different
clusters of correlated genes correspond well to the
major races labeled by common sense.)
- "In June, the Times
reported a forthcoming
study by physicist
Greg Cochran, anthropologist Jason Hardy, and
Henry Harpending proposing that Ashkenazi Jews
have been biologically selected for high
intelligence, and that their well-documented genetic
diseases are a by-product of this evolutionary
- "In September, political
Charles Murray published an
article in Commentary reiterating
The Bell Curve that average racial
differences in intelligence are intractable and
"Advances in genetics and genomics will soon provide the
ability to test hypotheses about group differences
Pinker concludes that this prospect
one that the current intellectual community is
ill-equipped to deal with."
For the purveyors of the reigning
dogmas, who have devoted decades to
demonizing anyone who points out the impact of
genetic diversity on modern life as a threat to
civilization, the onrushing tidal wave of DNA evidence
must seem apocalyptic.
According to Pinker:
"Whether or not these hypotheses hold up (the evidence
for gender differences is reasonably good, for ethnic
and racial differences much less so), they are widely
perceived to be dangerous. Summers was subjected to
months of vilification, and proponents of ethnic and
racial differences in the past have been targets of
censorship, violence, and comparisons to Nazis. Large
swaths of the intellectual landscape have been
reengineered to try to rule these hypotheses out a
priori (race does not exist, intelligence does not
exist, the mind is a blank slate inscribed by parents)."
- That evolution sometimes
occurs at the speed of revolution (his theory of "punctuated
- That evolution occurs
too slowly for human racial groups to
differ genetically in behaviorally important
ways (as enunciated in his
The Mismeasure of Man).
These assertions might strike you
or me as potentially contradictory. But logical
consistency is not much valued in today`s
media marketplace. According to his widow`s
malpractice suit against his doctor, Gould
$300,000 a year from speaking engagements alone, that `a
seven-figure income was his norm,` and that when he died
he was about to enter into a book contract for more than
One of Gould`s most prominent
successors at telling the intelligentsia what they want
to hear about human evolution is UCLA geographer and
Jared Diamond. He is "the
epitome of the celebrity scientist"
according to his lecture agent.
Before attaining that exalted
status, Diamond developed many interesting and useful
ideas. But the notion that made his fortune was,
predictably, among his weakest.
In his 1997 Pulitzer Prize-winner
Guns, Germs, and Steel (which he modestly subtitled The Fates
of Human Societies), Diamond set out to disprove
what he defined as "racism." Ruling out a
priori the concept that genetic differences might
contribute to say, the wealth of Europe versus the
poverty of New Guinea as too
"loathsome" to consider, he attempted to affirm
the empirical equality of humanity by showing the
environmental inequality of the continents.
Diamond laboriously demonstrated
how divergent the continents are. But, as I
pointed out in 1997, this merely raised an obvious
question that he had no answer for: If the continents
are so disparate, wouldn`t the various families of
humans naturally become genetically adapted to their
wildly differing homelands through natural selection?
Unfortunately for the old guard,
there are numerous ambitious young scientists out there
who view smashing the prevailing prevarications as great
fun. One of them told me last week how lucky he is to be
working in the field of genetics in 2006—when new data
is pouring in every week, and major discoveries are
lying around waiting to be picked up, like gold nuggets
Sierra Nevada streams in 1849.
And will all this mean, as the
conventional wisdom retailers darkly warn, Armageddon,
the end of the world as we know it?
As Pinker told me in
are surely better off with the truth. Oddly enough,
everyone agrees with this when it comes to the arts.
Sophisticated people sneer at feel-good comedies and
saccharine romances in which everyone lives happily ever
after. But when it comes to science, these same people
say, `Give us schmaltz!` They expect the science of
human beings to be a source of emotional uplift and
What the researchers are uncovering
as they scrape away the blather of the Goulds and
Diamonds is a world we already more or less know, the
one we all live in every day.
The human race has its flaws. But
the truth about ourselves is not so horrible that we
must be shielded from it by self-appointed sages who get
the end of the world as we know it.
the end of the world as we know it.
the end of the world as we know it,
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and